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tv   Democracy Now  PBS  April 5, 2016 12:00pm-1:01pm PDT

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04/05/16 04/05/16 [captioning made possible by democracy now!] amy: from pacifica, this is democracy now! >> there are just so many stories that i've grown to the point we could report on each of them for a week. at the same time, the sheer number of people to be found in the data is becoming clear to us. there are dictators, members of the japanese mafia, the sicilian rotc, weapons dealers, pedophiles. you start to feel a little nervous when you realize this one week is going to expose all of them. amy: it's the biggest leak in journalism history. the panama papers names the rich and powerful around the world who used offshore tax havens to hide their wealth, including 12
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heads of state and those close to them. some 11.5 million files were leaked from one of the world's most secretive offshore companies, mossack fonseca, a law firm in panama, and given by an anonymous source to a german newspaper that poured over them with help from hundreds of reporters with the international consortium of investigative journalists. we will go to munich, germany to , speak with frederik obermaier, co-author of the "panama papers" story and the book "panama papers: the story of a worldwide revelation" just released today in germany. and we will speak with the consortium's senior editor, michael hudson. >> it is true the biggest tax havens in the world are islands, and those two islands could be great britain and manhattan. amy: then the release of the panama papers comes amid growing concern about so called dark money flooding u.s. elections by super pac's that do not have to report their donors. >> unlike my democratic opponent, and i think every republican, we do not have a
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super pac. we don't want a super pac. opponent, we're not raising millions of dollars from wall street or the fossil fuel industry or the drug companies. amy: we will speak with a member of the federal election commission, ellen weintraub. she is calling for greater enforcement of campaign finance regulations. her latest piece in the "new york times" is headlined, "taking on citizens united." all that and more, coming up. welcome to democracy now!,, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman. it's primary day in wisconsin. polls suggest it could be a big day for the underdogs as democratic contender bernie sanders and republican ted cruz have seen a surge in support in recent weeks in the badger state. after wisconsin, the next big state on the primary calendar is new york. on monday, hillary clinton and
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bernie sanders have agreed to hold a debate in brooklyn ahead of the april 19 primary. it will be april 14. meanwhile, the latest fundraising numbers show sanders, who has won five of the last six contests, raised a record-setting $44 million in march. clinton took in $29.5 million. in republican news, the huffington post is reporting billionaire gop donor charles koch is privately predicting house speaker paul ryan could emerge from the republican national convention as the party's nominee if donald trump fails to win enough delegates. chances of a brokered convention will increase if ted cruz wins today in wisconsin, where the winner will receive most of the delegates. in a victory for voting rights, the supreme court has unanimously upheld the legal principle of one person, one vote. the justices rejected a challenge by conservative activists who wanted states to be able to redraw districts based on eligible or registered
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voters, as opposed to total population. such a move would have made many districts older, whiter and more conservative. california governor jerry brown and new york governor mario -- andrew cuomo both signed legislation on monday to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour in the coming years. governor brown spoke in los angeles. >> this is about economic justice. it is about people. it is about creating a little tiny balance in a system that every day becomes more unbalanced. [applause] angerere is a lot of going on in the presidential campaign. and it may have many sources. the one of the sources, certainly, is the way the average american is being treated by this particular economy. amy: in new york, presidential contender hillary clinton joined governor andrew cuomo at a victory rally marking the
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minimum wage increase. >> we need to build on what is an accomplished here in new york , and go all the way to washington and raise the minimum wage for everybody in america. amy: while hillary clinton called for the minimum wage to be increased across the country, she has not endorsed nationwide minimum wage of $15 an hour, a position held by her opponent bernie sanders. in iceland over 10,000 protesters took to the streets monday calling for iceland's prime minister to resign after it was revealed he had benefited from offshore investment accounts in tax havens. >> i just protesting the corruption of the government. the prime minister has been lying about his money. the financial mr. has also been lying -- minister has also been lying about secret companies. everybody is fed up with this. amy: details of icelandic prime minister sigmundur david gunnlaugsson's offshore account
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were exposed on sunday as part of the panama papers a massive , journalistic expose revealing how a panamanian firm had set up a global network of shell companies for heads of state, politicians, ceo's, and celebrities to store their money offshore to avoid taxes and oversight. we will have more on the panama papers after headlines. in southeastern bangladesh, police opened fire monday on a large protest against the construction of two chinese-backed coal plants on the edge of the world's largest mangrove forest. at least four people died but activists in the area say the death toll may be higher. the united states is publicly criticizing israel for continuing to demolish palestinian homes in the west bank. according to the united nations at least 41 structures were march, including a school. state department spokesperson elizabeth trudeau addressed the issue on friday. >> we're concerned about the demolitions undertaken by a
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israeli authorities that continue to route the west bank and east jerusalem. these actions are indicative of the damaging trend of demolition, displacement, and land confiscation alongside settlement related activity and continued construction undermines the possibility of a two state solution will stop they also call into question the israeli government's commitment to that two state solution. amy: on monday, three more homes were demolished, homes owned by families of three palestinians who were killed after fatally attacking an israeli officer in february. ahmad kmail said the israeli authorities only gave his family 30 minutes before the home was demolished. >> the occupation forces raided our house at 1:00 a.m. and asked us to empty it in 30 minutes because they wanted to demolish it. i was not ready in the house was not empty. i moved the furniture outside, they started to demolish it after 30 minutes. this is a discriminatory crime. anti-imf protests were held
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in greece yesterday, days after wikileaks published the transcript of a recent conference call of three senior imf officials, discussing tactics to apply pressure on greece, germany and the eu to , reach a debt deal in april. during the call one imf official , said some kind of "event" was needed to greece into concluding talks over its debt reforms. while greece's finance minister met with lenders in athens on monday, protesters gathered outside. this is panayiotis lafazanis, leader of the popular unity party. >> this country does not need bailouts, it needs freedom, democracy, independence, sovereignty, justice. that is what we are fighting for an protesting over, and we will win. amy: a new study is predicting tens of thousands of people in the united states will die prematurely each year from heat
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waves and other extreme weather events like hurricanes and floods unless the world takes urgent steps to address the climate crisis. john holdren, obama's senior science adviser, spoke monday at the white house. >> the report rejects under middle-of-the-road emissions scenarios, we could see from thousands to tens of thousands additional heat related deaths in the united states each summer . the numbers are striking. amy: the state of north carolina could lose billions of dollars in federal funding for schools, highways, and housing following the signing of an anti-lgbt law known as the "bathroom bill." it bars north carolina cities and towns from passing laws prohibiting discrimination against lgbt people in public accommodations. the departments of education, transportation, labor, housing and urban development, and health and human services are all conducting reviews to determine if north carolina still and would trouble for
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federal funding -- eligible for federal funding. the board of trustees at princeton university has announced it will keep former u.s. president woodrow wilson's name on campus buildings despite student protests about his segregationist beliefs. in students staged a 32-hour november, sit-in to protest racial injustice on campus. one of their key demands was the removal of wilson's name from buildings including the woodrow , wilson school of public and international affairs. and finally the cia has admitted , it accidentally left explosive material under the hood of a school bus in loudoun county, virginia after a k-9 training , exercise at a local high school. the bus was used to ferry students to class two days last week before the explosive material was discovered. in a mexico, environmental activist gustavo castro soto held his first press conference monday since returning to mexico, a month after he survived an assassination attempt that left fellow honduran activist berta caceres dead.
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at the time of her death, caceres was campaigning against a hydroelectric project in honduras. castro said she and her indigenous activist group copinh were targeted for their political activity. anothere case of copinh example of how multinationals and major parties who have an interest in mining are involved --the criminal criminalization and death of indigenous peoples. we support the request of the family for a group of independent experts to have an exhaustive investigation, not just for berta's murder, but for the deaths and massacres against copinh. amy: and those are some of the headlines. this is democracy now!,, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman. the biggest leak in the history of dated journalism just went live, and it is about corruption. that is what nsa whistleblower
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edward snowden tweeted about the panama papers. released sunday, the panama papers reveal how the rich and powerful in numerous countries use tax havens to hide their wealth. some 11.5 million files were leaked from one of the world's most secretive offshore companies, mossack fonseca, a law firm based in panama. the documents were obtained from an anonymous source by the german newspaper suddeutsche zeitung and shared with the international consortium of investigative journalists. the information in the files dates back to 1977 and goes up to december last year. the revelations implicate 12 heads of state, and a number of other politicians, their family members and close associates, including friends of russian president vladimir putin, relatives of the prime ministers of britain, iceland and pakistan, and the president of ukraine. relatives of at least eight current or former members of china's top ruling body are also named, and today chinese news groups were ordered to purge all
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mention of the panama papers. this is one of the lead authors of the panama papers, bastian obermayer of suddeutsche zeitung, talking about the leaks. >> a small pending the -- panamanian law firm is at the center of the research, mossack fonseca. mossack fonseca guarded the data of the world's most powerful and dangerous people. amy: in a written statement immediately following the revelations, mossack fonseca said allegations it provided a structure designed to hide the source of money were "completely unsupported and false" and that "we do not provide beneficiary
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services to deceive banks. it is difficult, not to say impossible, not to provide banks with the identity of final beneficiaries and the origin of funds." so far, fallout from the leaks has prompted investigations, and calls for resignation. on monday, one of the largest protests in iceland's history demanded the prime minister sigmundur gunnlaugsson step down after the leaked files revealed he and his wife were hiding investments worth millions of dollars behind a secretive offshore company. more than 10,000 demonstrators gathered outside the parliament building in reykjavik. >> i am just protesting like the rest of the nation, it appears. talks what are you protesting? >> i would like the prime minister to resign. amy: to talk more about the leaks, we're joined now by two guests. in munich, germany frederik , obermaier is co-author of the "panama papers" story. he is an investigative reporter at germany's leading newspaper, the munich-based suddeutsche zeitung. he is co-author of the book, "panama papers: the story of a
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worldwide revelation," just released today in germany. and here in new york, michael hudson is with us, senior editor at the international consortium of investigative journalists, which published the panama papers. we welcome you both to democracy now! let us begin with frederik obermaier in munich, germany. talk about how your paper got the biggest leak in journalism history. >> good morning. , a sourceyear ago turn to "suddeutsche zeitung saying, i am john doe, interested in data. we said, yes, we're interested in data. from the, that is data panamanian law firm mossack fonseca. we started investigating and the data grew and grew and we realized it is by far too much
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for us, and we started to investigate it as a team of two. as we are members of icij, we realized we have to share this with our partners because this is a worldwide story. amy: and talk about what started to be revealed. i mean, 11.5 million documents is astounding. and why this is called -- this week, is called the panama papers. >> this leak is called the panama papers because the documents are from the panamanian law firm mossack fonseca, a law firm that is headquartered in panama but has branches all around the world. they are offering offshore companies to their customers, banks, lawyers, and customers, and what we see now -- i mean, offshore company was, like, a wall. we cannot see inside before. now we have inside through this
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data. we see which people are the ultimate beneficial owners of offshore companies which people are using to hide crime, using them to obviously evade taxes. amy: let's go to some specific examples. we just said in our lead that there are increasing calls for the prime minister of iceland to resign. 10,000 people gathered in downtown yesterday. why is he being targeted? what did you learn through this document release? that the icelandic prime minister was the co-owner with hisshore company wife, but he did not be clear to the public. this offshore company was in the profession of bonds of the major three icelandic banks. the bank the corrupted during
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the financial crisis. i mean, this would have been something that he should have declared to the public that, hey, as a politician, i have to deal with what has happened during the financial crisis, but i do have bonds or had bonds in these banks via my offshore company. but he did not declare to the public. was i yesterday with the icelandic population or the majority are parts of it think of it, because thousands of been gathering asking him to resign. amy: michael hudson come your would be international consortium of investigative journalists. before we go into how you got involved with this german newspaper and the extent of this talkingdocument leak, desktop further about this prime and mr. and how that is an example of what you have discovered.
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when the prime minister, when he entered parliament and that was in 2009, as a member of parliament, he owned this company. he did not declare it. by the end of 2009, he had sold it to his wife for one dollar. this is at a time when he was really taking up the cause, in his words, to protect icelanders from foreign vaulters who are -- vultures who are trying to pick through the remains of the banks and profit. what people did not know was wife, ornd his certainly his wife, owned millions of dollars worth of bonds in these banks. it is unclear whether or not the positions he took benefited or hurt his family's holdings, but the key was that he never reported -- there is no disclosure. yourtalk about how organization, the international
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consortium, worked with this german newspaper. >> right. the great thing about icij is we have been able to gather -- amy: what is it? >> icij's us-based nonprofit news organization. we have a small number of full-time staffers, about 11 or 12 fks you're in e.s., coa ra, spain, venezuela, but we also have 190 members around the world who work at places like the guardian, the bbc, and other newspapers and broadcast organizations around the world. we have an extra ordinary group of people who work with us who really embrace something a lot of journalists do not. a couple of things, teamwork and patience. this idea that you're going to share information with people that normally you consider your competitors, but the key is, we all agree to do so and agree to publish at the same time --
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which is really a win/win. we able to in sort of a sense, journalistic crowdsourcing on these giant data sets like the panama papers. when there is -- when everyone publishes, you're not posting by yourself. you have some protection if you're in a country where the media can be silenced, but also it creates an international firestorm as we have seen. amy: this is massive. with the "new york times" involved, they have given very little coverage. >> they have written about it -- amy: some. >> but we see lots of media, post"ing "the washington and others are jumping on this and have been sort of forced to deal with this. amy: what to you is the biggest story that have been revealed in these 11.5 million files? >> i think the biggest stories the world leaders. we have a dozen world leaders who the documents show actually controlled, personally controlled offshore assets or
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were involved in transactions, but the other part of it is that we have dozens of people either family members or associates of world leaders -- amy: name names people very close to russian president vladimir putin. longtime friends, friends going back to his boyhood, business associates. of putin's eather ldest daughter. there formed a network were there trading among themselves, various degrees of control over offshore companies, and overlarge secretly -- influence over large russian corporations. we have seen -- the records themselves show as much as $2 billion being shuffled back and forth. amy: [indiscernible] >> this is a man who says yes no finance background, he is no fortune, but yet the records
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tell a different story. connections tos come and in some cases, control of tens of millions, hundreds of millions of dollars. amy: the money from the russian state banks is it not sure, some of it ending up in a ski resort where in 2013, putin's daughter got married. >> right. about bashar al-assad, syria. the leader in syria? who have beens the target of international sanctions, suspected of controlling key gateways to syria's oil and telecom business. >> yes, there are people connected to him. also what we have seen, companies that have been busting the international embargo against syria and supplying fuel that was used to keep syria's
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air force in the air, these are craft that were used to bomb his own citizens. mossack fonseca was representing, working with the company's ever busting the sanctions. amy: explain exactly what this company is in panama. mossack fonseca. >> it is a law firm, but it really is -- its main business is an incorporator of offshore companies. it is headquartered in panama city, but it has offices in miami, zurich, hong kong, more than 35 places around the world. i think they have eight offices total in china. this is an international organization that specializes in selling secrecy. secrecy is something that is bought and sold. the more secrecy -- the deeper secrecy, the more levels of protection of inflation you want, the more you will pay. amy: the argentine president
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macri, the man president obama just went to visit in argentina while mayor of when is areas, is revealed in these files. not disclose his position as director of a comedy which was incorporated in the bahamas in 1998. >> right. that was a very interesting case for us because he was another world leader in my current world leader of a big country worldwide. for us, i mean, we found him really at the late stage of this investigation. but for us, it was for interesting because it was the time he became the new president of argentine. listed in this grouping of individuals involved is the british prime minister david cameron. frederik obermaier, talk more about what you found.
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is notan, david cameron in the data himself, but there is his father in this data. he is involved in a structure that involved -- for me, that was very interesting. it is actually david cameron now who is asking or pushes for getting rid of structures. it was his father using such structures. as today, there is a huge debate in london and we heard from our correspondent in london that that is actually the topic number one in great britain. amy: this issue of the british government facing criticism of david cameron after his late father's name appeared in the panama papers leak, labor leader germany corbyn said today he will publish his tax returns and urged other ministers to do the same. this is what he said. >> it is high time we got tough on tax havens. britain has a huge
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responsibility because many of those tax havens are in british overseas territories or crown dependencies. the leaked documents show tax havens have become honeypots of international corruption, tax avoidance, and tax evasion. they are sucking revenues out of her own country and many others, fueling inequality, shortchanging services, and our people. the government needs to go beyond warm words on tax dodging . there cannot be one set of tax rules for the wealthy elite and another for the rest of us. the abuse must stop. [applause] i say this to the government and the chancellor, no more lip service. the richest must pay their way. amy: so that is jeremy corbyn, the labor leader in britain. as david cameron is coming under criticism, the prime minister.
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frederik obermaier, what about in germany itself? in germany, we have had our finance minister calling for more transparency in the world in the world of offshore, but that is actually quite funny because it was our finance minister doing the same and asking for the same in the year 2013 after we and icij and the partners uncover the offshore leaks. this is another example for me of politicians, high profile politicians, asking for transparency but then not pushing enough to get these measures into practice. , more onael hudson world leaders? >> we have seen quite a few world leaders who have spoken out against corruption, including the ukrainian leader -- china's top those folks have been connected to offshore entities.
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poroshenko was shown during the armed conflict with russia, his representatives were setting up an offshore company for him at that time. information now being blocked in china about what has been discovered. >> absolutely. and that is sort of a pattern. in previous investigations when we have written about the offshore holdings of china's elite, china has shut us down. it is interesting, there are sort of freedom of information activist's. they will take what they're than in the past, taken our stories and turn them into impossible -- turn into pdf's so they can be sent around the country. amy: frederik obermaier, a person named as the son of from the arabk, an
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spring in egypt. >> for me that is an interesting case because this case shows how the panamanian law firm mossack fonseca deals with sanctions and the rules. we see in the data that they theally realize that it was son of post and move direct was mubarak.ta -- hosni that is something that we see a different cases. always claims, and told us one year ago when we asked for another story, if they were dealing with sanctions with individuals or companies, they said, no, we would not accept them as customers. what we do see now in the data is they do actually accept them. for example, we found our conversation between several partners of this law firm and an associate of bashar al-assad. they realized he was the cousin
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and realized he was sanctioned, and they realized that he allegedly one of the finance ministers of the syrian regime. they said, oh, there is this bank that still does business with them, so we should still keep him as well. i think that really shows how scrupulous they are. they dealt with the person that was sanctioned that was involved, regime that is killing thousands in syria. amy: we're going to go to break and come back to this discussion with frederik obermaier, co-author of the "panama papers" story. investigative reporter at germany's leading newspaper, the munich-based suddeutsche zeitung. he is co-author of the book, "panama papers: the story of a worldwide revelation" just released today in germany. and with us in new york, michael hudson, senior editor at the international consortium of investigative journalists or icij, which published the panama papers. this is democracy now! we will be back with them in a mome. ♪ [music break]
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amy: this is democracy now!,, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman. we are talking about the biggest leak in the history of nato journalism that just went live, -- data journalism that just went live. that is what edward tweeted about the panama papers. the papers reveal how the rich and powerful in numerous countries use tax havens to hide their wealth, some 11 point finally and files were really from one of the world's most secretive offshore companies, mossack fonseca, a law firm based in panama. the documents were obtained by "panama papers: the story of a worldwide revelation." -- were obtained by suddeutsche zeitung. snowden tweeted saying --
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we're joined by frederik obermaier, suddeutsche zeitung reporter and one of the lead reporters on this story. and michael hudson of the international consortium of investigative journalists. i want to turn to bernie sanders speaking in october of 2011 during a debate on the senate floor over the panama united states trade promotion agreement. the pact became law the next year but in 2011, senator sanders laid out his opposition in a speech some say -- are predicting the new panama papers project. >> animals entire economic output is only about 2/10 of 1% of the u.s. economy. no one can legitimately make the claim that approving this free
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trade agreement will significantly increase american jobs. then why would we be considering a standalone free agreement with panama? well, turns out that animal is a world leader when it comes to allowing wealthy americans and large corporations to evade u.s. taxes by stashing their cash and offshore tax havens will stop the panama free-trade agreement will make this bad situation much worse. each and every year, the wealthiest people in our country and the largest corporations evade about $100 billion in u.s. taxes through abusive and illegal offshore tax havens in panama all and in other countries. according to citizens for tax justice -- "one of three characteristics. no income tax or a very low rate income tax. it has bank secrecy laws.
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and it has a history of not corporation with other countries on exchanging information about tax matters." all three of those. they're probably the worst. amy: that was bernie sanders, not now, but in 2011. michael hudson, was he predicting what we're seeing today? and what is the role of the u.s. and all of this? >> i don't know if he is predicting, but sort of describing the situation. hannah montana's one of the world biggest secrecy havens. has one of the world's biggest secrecy havens. if you're an attorney or next house trying to find out about someone's assets, it is very google to go to panama just like it is difficult to go to the british virgin islands or became its and get that information. that is what makes us so popular for a haven for people, including americans like ponzi
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scammers and fraudsters and those trying to reduce their taxes. that is why they go to to companies like mossack fonseca and go to places like panama all. talk about the role of the united states. talk about where we are right now. >> it is interesting, there are lots of americans going overseas trying to hide their money or move their money to avoid taxes or avoid criminal investigations, but on the other hand, you know, you can argue that the world's biggest tax havens are islands, but they are great britain and manhattan. both london and new york are places where lots of money, you know, is hidden. both in real estate and in banks. if you are trying -- if you are the brother-in-law of a dictator and a developing nation, you can
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have -- you will have a company based in the british virgin islands or panama or something like that, but your money will not be there. the company that you own is going to be the front for you that will allow you to have your money in a bank so that you and your family can do shopping trips, you know, in manhattan. amy: i am afraid we might lose frederik obermaier who's in a studio in munich, germany. so before we do, as a leader of this whole effort analyzing over the last year this massive number of files, information from this panamanian law firm, talk about where you are going with this from now. i mean, there are so many stories, what you are following, and the book "panama papers" was just released in germany today, frederik obermaier. >> for us, the last two days were just the beginning. there will be, for example,
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we're going to publish are planning publications really every day now for the next two and three weeks, then we will go on a regular basis. there are still great stories and revelations to come out in the next days. i would recommend -- i would recommending staying tuned to icij. a what have you been most surprised by? what do you think are the stories that could topple governments? think for me, it was important to realize that it is -- it isgovernments western, leaders of western governments being in the data like the icelandic prime minister. furthermore, for me, it is like we are at least in germany we speak about tax havens in the taxes. of for me, the panama papers later show it is not only about taxes, it is about criminals hiding
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their wrongdoings. it is about sanctioned people trying to go on with the business as though they are sanctions. i think this is the reason why this topic should matter to all of us because there are so many aspects were we are concerned with this topic of offshore companies and tax havens because this is a completely parallel world. it is a secret offshore world, and i think we should shed some light into this world. amy: michael hudson, on the issue of ponzi schemes in the united states? >> we have not reported on those yet, but we do have -- the thing you have to remember, anytime there is a major fraud case, cases, any of those, there will be an offshore element. when the money is so large, the schemes are so big, you need offshore to help cover your tracks and help hide the loot. -level ponzie madoff
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scammers, but we do have fraudsters based in america who have been doing business with this law firm and we will be reporting on a down the road. amy: i've been looking at an article by david sirota, he tweeted -- watchdog group said, effectively barred the united states from cracking down on questionable activities instead of requiring concessions of the panamanian government on banking rules and regulations, combating tax haven abuse and animal can violate the agreement should the u.s. embark on such an endeavor, you can be exposed to find from international authorities. collects it is very interesting. the u.s. has taken a role and it seems in many ways to be working across purposes, the u.s.
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justice department has gone after swiss banks in a big way, gotten huge limits with some of the biggest banks and even some of the smaller swiss banks and put pressure, but there are many other examples in the united states either having policies which encourage money being wherearound secretly or we're turning a blind eye. their states like delaware and nevada where there is just as much secrecy, just as much privacy few want to get a company, if you want to have a shell company and not have your name publicly attached to it, you can do that. amy: if we have not lost and yet, frederik obermaier in munich, a new headline in "the the street journal" -- indian finance minister said new delhi will set up a multiagency panel to examine each of the people named in the report. how prominent is india in this wave of documents?
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india turns up in the context of dozens of very, very interesting cases. for example, one of our colleagues who specialized -- what she found was amazing. tracks leading to prominent politicians. it i don't want to tell too much because i don't know or haven't followed her reporting that closely that i would know what she had reported and what she is not, so i'm sorry for that. amy: finally, michael hudson, what does this mean for international collaborative journalism? how many journalists, how many newspapers worked on these documents that have been revealed over the last year? "the new york times" said they did not even know this was being ,orked on, interesting reporting they were not featured in this. they were not included in this. they said they're looking into it now. >> more than 100 news
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organizations for more than 70 nations have worked on this, most of them for more than a year. we have been doing these collaborative projects for a long time. we were talking in terms of dozens of people involved in earlier projects. this current project, more than around theists world. it is about people realizing the more you give, the more you share with your fellow journalists, with your colleagues, the more you're going to get back in the end. you don't have the cutthroat competition that often characterizes journalism. it doesn't have to be the way forward. amy: any indications on whether there are multiple sources here, frederik obermaier, is it just one? and the story behind getting the actual -- physically getting these documents, these files? i would rather not comment on that because we want to protect
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our source, so i hope you understand, but we will not -- i cannot answer this question into detail. amy: we believe it there. of course, continue to cover these stories as they roll in. frederik obermaier speaking to us from munich, germany, an investigative reporter with germany's leading newspaper, the munich-based suddeutsche zeitung , co-author of the "panama papers" story. just released today in germany. thank you to michael hudson, the senior editor at the international consortium of investigative journalists or icij, which published the panama papers. we will link to everything we see as it unfolds and as it comes out at we will be back in a minute. ♪ [music break]
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amy: this is democracy now!,, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman. the release of the panama papers comes amid growing concern about undisclosed campaign contributions here in the united states, so called dark money. "the washington post" reports that through the end of january, 680 corporations had given nearly $68 million to super pacs in this election cycle -- 12% of the $549 million raised by such groups. this figure does not include the untold amounts of dark money contributions to other groups that are not disclosed by the donor or the recipient. now, some members of the federal election commission, or fec, are calling for greater enforcement of campaign finance regulations . fec commissioner ellen weintraub recently wrote a piece in the "new york times" called, "taking on citizens united" in which she says -- "the american people deserve assurances from american
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corporations that they are not using the money of foreign shareholders to influence our elections." weintraub goes on to call for federal and state policy makers to ensure corporations are not being used as a front to allow foreign money to seep into u.s. elections. the fec is the government watchdog tasked with keeping federal elections fair, but it has come to a virtual standstill since its 3 democratic and 3 republican members are in partisan gridlock. let's go now to washington, d.c., where we are joined by the federal election commissioner ellen weintraub. welcome to democracy now! talk about your concerns in this election year. collects thank you for having me. well, i have a variety of ofcerns as i'm sure a lot americans do about the role of money in politics. there is, as you noted, an increasing amount of dark money. we're seeing more contributions coming from fewer donors and with less transparency than we ever have before.
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there are lots of ways the federal election commission could help to shed more light on this money to make sure that we're not getting foreign money into our elections, and a make sure that everyone is playing by the same s rules. amy: what is this foreign money and how is he getting in? >> here's the problem. i think when citizens united was handed down, a lot of people were somewhat taken aback by the notion of corporations having political opinions that they would need to express. but the court did not actually find that corporations are people like human beings, sanctioned things with opinions of their own and, obviously, corporations do not get to vote. there are lots of ways that corporations are different from human beings. what the courts that, though, when human beings formed whenher in corporations, they gathered together and use that legal framework, they don't lose any other constitutional rights. this is a view the court elaborated on in the hobby lobby
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case, which involved at -- religious freedoms. the court acknowledged the corporations are a legal fiction. they're there to protect the rights to the extent of corporations have rights, they're there to protect the rights of the human beings that are behind them. the question and needs to be raised, what happens when those human beings don't actually have those rights? associations of citizens forming together as corporations don't lose their right to express themselves to use money in order to get their point of view across, to fund communications, to make contributions, but a lot of corporations have foreign shareholders. and those corporations are using the money that is owned by those foreign shareholders to intervene in elections, and that is where we run the risk of foreign money coming into our elections. i think it can happen in one of two ways. you could have, if all one needs
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to do is form a u.s. corporation in order to intervene in u.s. elections, then you could have foreign billionaires calling up a lawyer in wilmington, delaware, and saying, "forming a corporation. i will transfer fee million dollars from a cayman island account and you can spread it around through super pacs and other entities that are finding to medications to add people's election or defeat." i think a lot of people, i would hope most people, would have a problem with that. our elections are for your citizens to participate in, and there is a reason why we have a flat out statutory ban on foreign nationals contributing in any way shape or form directly or indirectly to our elections. but there's another problem that could arise where foreign -- a lot of a publicly held corporations have foreign shareholders. at what point, and is the rainy threshold at which it is appropriate, for those corporations to be using their resources, which is in part
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owned by foreign nationals, in some cases, entirely owned by foreign nationals, in order to run communications and make contributions in our elections? amy: can you give us specific examples, commissioner weintraub ? >> i don't have any cases in front of me right now that raise this issue, but i do think that the is a problem that is out there. there's no question there are foreign shareholders in u.s. corporations. if the fec were to come to a deadlock on this issue and some commissioners were to say, as long as you former u.s. corporation you're free to funnel foreign money entire elections, i think we would see a huge influx of money coming from overseas. amy: so how can this be dealt with? how can you deal with it at the federal election commission? and think what we should do what i am hoping to do is to start a rule-making process where we were together expert testimony, we would hear from the american people -- heart of the reason i wrote the op-ed was to try to jumpstart a national
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conversation on the role of corporate money in our elections and the role of foreign national money, potentially, and our elections. i think these are important issues the american people would care about him would want to weigh in on and would want to have a voice in. amy: can you talk about what is happening at the fec? what it does, what it is supposed to do, and what it is complete now with this gridlock between the three democrats and the three republicans? >> it is a big problem, amy. we were designed to forge bipartisan compromise and there is not a lot of copper mines going on at the fec these days. we have a responsibility to issue, since regulations, to help inform people how to comply with the laws, and to enforce those laws. we are not sing a lot of enforcement or rulemaking going on at the fec. you don't have to take my word for it. lastly, the lawyer for the chamber of commerce, hardly a rabble rousing reform organization what --was
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complaining the fec was not issuing rules people need in order to comply with the law. most people out there really do want to comply with the law but a understand they have to be rules and they want to know what they are. we have not issued any substantive roles since citizens united interpreting that opinion and that is a big problem for a lot of people who are just trying to comply with the law. we recently had a slew of cases released a rising out of the 2012 election cycle. it is far too late for us to be resolving cases out of 2012, but we could not get our colleagues to vote on these cases. these cases involved a number of people who are funneling money lc's to political causes with the intent and three out of four of these cases, specific intent of hiding their identities. the american people have a right to know whose money is funding our elections. people have a lot of concerns about money in politics, and this is just one of them.
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at the most basic level, eight out of nine justices on the supreme court agreed on this point. dinner can people deserve to know. we have a right to know who is funding our elections and a right to know where that money is coming from, and if it is being routed through corporations or llc's or other vaguely named groups, then the people are denied the information they need to make informed choices in the election. amy: can you talk more about the petition, unusual addition, you filed last year? >> one of my colleagues and i were so frustrated at the complete inability to launch any rulemaking's in the wake of citizens united and other important decisions, that we actually try to petition our own agency to launch a rulemaking process. we were told by our colleagues that we actually are not persons under the law for the purposes of launching a petition. corporations are persons, commissioners, not so much. that was disheartening. but there were others outside who thought these issues were worth raising and filed
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analogous petition with the commission and we received thousands of comments. the issues we want to address, and constitutionally addressed even under citizens united, retained and coordination between candidates and super pacs, coercion -- i worry a lot when corporations are involved in politics. who is doing the political acting and are corporations unfairly coercing their employees to be involved in political activities that may not reflect the employees own point of view? as i said, we need to do a much better job of disclosure of the political money and there is this issue of foreign nationals that i think has not been addressed since citizens united opened the door to corporate money which can be an opportunity for foreign money to come into our election. amy: your republican counterparts on the commission questioned your own personhood? >> yeah, that wasn't one of our best moments at the commission. amy: explain.
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>> they said under the law we are not legally entitled, when the law says any person can follow petition, they did not mean us. they did not mean members of fec or other members -- other people who are part of the government. i don't know, my children think i'm a person. my husband inside the prison. i tend to think i am a person. amy: the federal election commission, what can regular people do in this country to deal with the concerns you have just expressed. >> i think people really are getting a lot more engaged in these issues. there is this fallacy in washington that people do not care about money and politics issues. i think it could not be more untrue. i think we're seeing a play out in this election cycle where candidates on both sides of the aisle are making this a signature issue. money and politics and the undue influence of a very wealthy on not only who gets elected, but what policies get adopted after
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the election is over. and people are responding, people are turning out and showing their concern on this issue. i think people have to continue to raise this issue with their elected officials and to tell them that they really do care. when we opened the door to comments, we had overwhelming responses from the public, thousands of thousands of comments that overwhelmingly supported our taking stronger action, providing more roles, providing clear guidance. amy: i want to thank you for much for joining us, federal election commissioner ellen weintraub. that does it for our show. democracy now! is looking for feedback from people who appreciate the closed captioning. e-mail your comments to or mail them to democracy now! p.o. box 693 new york, new york 10013. [captioning made possible by democracy now!]
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